What’s on our Nightstands: Jan J. Dominique’s Memoir of an Amnesiac

Many years ago when I was conducting research for my dissertation, my co-blogger and dear friend Lisa introduced me to Haitian writer Jan J. Dominique’s Mémoire d’une amnésique; I loved it. Now, another dear friend, Mary Ann Gosser Esquilín, knowing of my love-hate relationship with translation, has just provided me with the recently published Memoir of an Amnesiac and I am thoroughly enjoying this fresh, crisp, and compelling translation, which includes a beautifully written foreword by Edwidge Danticat. ¡Gracias, amigas!

In an interview published in Callaloo 15.2 (1992) Dominique explains that Mémoire fits into a specific timeframe and a certain Haitian literary tradition “that demands a preponderant place for social and political problems in literary texts” but rather than using an omniscient narrator, reality “is viewed partially through the eyes and feelings of a little girl.” The author draws upon her traumatic experiences growing up under the dictatorship of François Duvalier, her complicated relationship with her father, and her understanding of Haitian history in this exploration of exile, loss, and memory. As Madison Smartt Bell indicates, it may be considered a memoir, novel, or roman à clef. Bell explains that it presents multiple facets:  “in one facet it is an especially privileged and personal view of the Haitian journalist Jean Dominique, redoubtable until his assassination in the year 2000. In another, it is a sophisticated study of the paradoxical relationship between memory and fabrication. In a third, it is a veiled but vivid account of life under a[n oppressive] regime.”

Memoir of an Amnesiac (2008) is a translation by Irline François, associate professor of Women’s Studies at Goucher College in Baltimore, Maryland.

For purchasing information, see http://www.amazon.com/Memoir-Amnesiac-Jan-J-Dominique/dp/1584324732/ref=sr_1_6?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1260882036&sr=8-6

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